Quindlen's Life Lessons

Saturday, 28 September 2013

If you read my blog at all, you know about my obsession with memoirs. I love reading true stories by people who have wisdom to share. Anna Quindlen talks about life, love and loss in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Quindlen wrote an opinion column for the New York Times for years, has three adult children and lost her mother to Cancer when she was just 19 years old.

She writes, 
"It’s odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was. Then I didn’t know who I was. Then I invented someone, and became her. Then I began to like what I’d invented. And finally I was what I was again."

This is definitely a book for women of all ages. I think she writes it for women who are 50s/60s but I learned so much about what I need to be doing in my 30s to have a fulfilling, happy life. A few take-aways (for me):

1. She absolutely loves being a mother.
2. She has simplified her wardrobe and look and encourages other women to do the same. 
3. Alone time later in life is fabulous.
4. Having and nurturing friendships with great girlfriends is even more important than I thought.
5. You are never too old to have the best day of your life.
6. She started working out with a trainer in her 50s and wishes she would have begun the program earlier in life.
7. Younger women should not discount older women and older women should not look down on younger women.
8. Ordinary things matter: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls. 
9. The tragedies we suffer will not break us but make us stronger. This seems cliche but she gives specific examples that hit home for me. 

Visiting the Grandparents

Wednesday, 25 September 2013
I'm getting pretty excited to visit my grandparents in Missouri. We don't get to see each other very often because they no longer travel long distances and it is hard to take time out from conferences and school to visit. Finally, however, I have a plane ticket and will be flying there for a long weekend.

My grandfather refinishes antique furniture as a hobby so we are going to see some of his work in different shops. My grandmother also loves herbs and trying new dishes so we are going to cook together. I might also stop by the Pony Express National Museum. I remember going as a child but I thought it might be fun to see it again. Early news traveled by mail in the form of letters. Because I research news, I'm always interested in the history of the production of news.

We also have a new baby in the family! My sweet cousin Amanda and her husband Vic welcomed a new son into the world on Monday and we are going to visit them.

Hope you are having a great week.

"Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing"

Thursday, 12 September 2013
I just finished an interesting article from Huffington Post about "23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing." I don't particularly care for the idea of telling other people what to do, especially when they don't ask for advice, but the article has some excellent points. At this stage of my life, I've already worked through a few of the "tips" such as:

1. Stop apologizing all the time. This is something that women tend to do much more than men, for whatever reason. There is no need to apologize to the waitress for asking to split the check or apologize for talking about your problems with a friend... etc. I read research about this last year and now make a mental note of every time I apologize for something that is irrelevant as well as noticing when women around me say "I'm sorry" for something they shouldn't be sorry for. You'll be surprised at how often you say it. Women do not need to qualify everything they do.

3. I stopped saying "no" to myself. There are things I want to accomplish in this life. Rather than believing I can't do something, I just decide that I CAN do it and go for it. That's how I completed a 1/2 marathon this year, how I'm almost finished pursuing a doctorate degree, how I purchased a house by myself and how I picked up, moved to London by myself and earned my Master's degree. We cannot let our insecurities or anxieties win.

7. The authors of the post say we should stop obsessively untagging every "unflattering" photo of ourselves that exist online. I still have some room to grow in this area but I'm so much more comfortable with myself now that I'm out of the TV business. Broadcast news values looks over everything and it is difficult to compete on looks alone. Now, I will go an entire day with only looking in the mirror once or twice. That's a good thing.

10. The article suggests that women stop wearing heels every day. I agree! I suffered from plantar fascitis when I worked in Cincinnati as a reporter because I wore heels every, single, day and I was on my feet all day. Plantar fascitis was incredibly painful and wearing heels was not practical. Why did I do it? I wore heels because of the pressure to "look" a certain way as a 20-something reporter. Forget it!

There are several items on the list that I stand to improve on. Such as:

2. Saying "yes" to everyone else. I am a people pleaser. I take into account others' needs before my own. I believe this trait results from a combination of a conservative upbringing, fundamental religious foundation and societal gender role modeling. Being compassionate and caring for others is not necessarily a bad thing but as women, if we are taught to always say "yes" to our elders, men in our lives, religious organizations, those in "power," etc., we are not saying "yes" to our own needs. When we consistently allow our needs to suffer to put others first or be "respectful," that is not okay. I am working to continue being true to myself and my own needs. We can and must set boundaries in our lives and then refuse to feel guilty about doing so.

This leads to 9: Stop holding on to regrets and guilt. I don't have regrets. Sure, there are things that I would do differently if I had the chance, but I try not to regret aspects of my life because I believe that we learn something and grow from all encounters and experiences. I do, however, struggle with consistent feelings of guilt (perhaps another mental contribution from a Christian foundation?). I feel guilty about things that truly have nothing to do with me! The authors of the article write, "Guilt and regret are two emotions that usually serve to torture the person feeling them. Acknowledge your guilt, and then move on to the best of your ability." I also am trying to only accept responsibility for my actions in a situation. In one area of my life, I was only considering my role in something I felt guilty about. I had completely blocked out the other party's role in the situation. When I remembered that, I looked at things more objectively and realized I did not need to take on a mountain of guilt.

5. Stop "body-snarking." Ha! I didn't know what that meant until I read the rest of the article. Body-snarking is when we say or think negative thoughts about our looks and/or bodies. This is something women do consistently but some men rarely do. Why? Women are held to a higher appearance standard by society and are compared to magazine photos of models. That is not reality. The sooner we accept that and begin being happy with our healthy bodies, the better. Yes, it is fine to work to be healthier but we need to do so in a positive way. I want to really work on this now so that if I have children, they will not hear me put myself down. Nothing good comes of negative thoughts.


Do you struggle with any of these things, or others on the list?

Duke University Chapel

Saturday, 7 September 2013


James and I went to Durham for my friends Casey and Ryan's engagement party. We had such a nice weekend and spent Saturday morning touring Duke University Chapel and the Duke Gardens. The weather was lovely in the morning before it got too hot. 


The architectural style of the chapel is inspired by English Gothic and represents one of the last great collegiate Gothic projects in this country. The architect of the chapel was Horace Trumbauer of Philadelphia. The chief designer was Julian Abele, a renowned African-American architect from Pennsylvania. 


There are 77 stained-glass windows and the ornamental lead-and-gold symbols in the doors were designed and made by G. Own Bonawit, Inc., of New York, along with designer S. Charles Jaekle and craftsman Hugh Doherty. 


The chapel is constructed of stone from the Duke Quarry near Hillsborough, North Carolina, located about 12 miles west of Durham. 


We went into the chapel when no one else was there. It was quiet and peaceful and enjoyable to just sit and look at the stained glass (Old and New Testament story scenes). The Memorial Chapel is also impressive with limewood figures of St. Paul, Jesus and St. Peter.

Comp Testing = Testing the Nerves?

Sunday, 1 September 2013
I'm finally finished with my four comprehensive exams. The next step is finding out whether my answers are sufficient enough to be defended orally. If so, then I'll meet with my committee on September 18th for the defense. IF that goes well, I will officially be ABD (all but dissertation) and can move forward with my dissertation proposal and data collection.

While it's all still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd write a little bit about comps so I can remember the experience. I began studying in early May with reading lists and organization of materials that I needed to re-read and commit to memory. After reading all summer and building resources lists, I began studying 10 hours a day for the last four weeks leading up to comps. Each question received specific attention, outlines, practice notes and writing non-stop to practice for two to four hours.

That's the process: show up at the college's dean's office at 9:00 a.m., sign in to a computer in the board room that only has word processing capabilities, close the door and answer a question (essay style) for four hours with nothing but a list of resources. The first day, I walked in feeling very nervous with my list of resources, green tea and a few snacks. I sat down, signed in, and got started.

It was very quiet in the windowless room and when someone answered a phone in the adjacent office, I could hear voices pretty clearly. That was fine because the dead silence was almost eerie. I study with the public radio broadcasting station on in the background because I have a hard time working in silence. (I'm used to a very loud newsroom.)

Because it was so quiet in the room, I could overhear a strange creaking, almost whining, noise outside. It wasn't constant but it was unnerving. I finally figured out that it was the door that led out of the office to the hallway. It sounded a bit like what I imagine the front door to a haunted house sounds. REEEEEeeeeeeiiinnnngggggg.

I took a deep break, refocued on the task at hand, and got back to work. I blocked out the creaking noise but about an hour later, the florescent light just above me went out. I looked up and it turned back on. On. Off. On. Off. This went on for about 20 minutes, going on and off every few minutes. I didn't want to waste any of my time asking someone to fix it so I just kept writing. An hour later, the light started flickering a-la-70s disco ball style. I thought to myself that if I had a risk of seizures, I would have lost the battle. THEN the creepy door sound started again. REEEEEeeeeeeiiinnnngggggg. It was getting closer to lunch time and students were coming in and out with questions about their schedules. I started imagining that I was in a basement, in a locked cell, writing to save my life. (I have an active imagination.)

I wrote my answers in a room with a flickering florescent light and a creepy, creaking door for 16 hours over four days. Comprehensive exam testing also tested my mental stability. I didn't know that was part of the challenge but fingers crossed that I passed! :)